We kicked things off with our daily pre-breakfast skiff ride to see what birds and monkeys the river had in store for us. This time we explored the calm waters of Pahuachiro Creek.

It was a quiet morning with plenty of sounds. A saddleback tamarin monkey peeked at us from the leafy shadows, and a green hermit hummingbird fed from the flower of a beautiful bromeliad. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the chance to watch a pair of tyrant flycatchers refurbishing the abandoned nests of the yellow-rumped cacique. Caciques create ornate hanging baskets with tiny openings. The much smaller tyrants (about the size of warblers) decided that these abandoned homes looked like the perfect place to set up shop and raise a family of their own. They proceeded to pluck bits and pieces from the outside of the nest to renovate the inside. We floated for a long time watching the dance as the pair worked fastidiously to make their new nest from another bird’s leftovers.

After breakfast, we had the chance to stretch our legs with our second rainforest hike. We might describe it as a casual trail, but we actually got to do a bit of bushwhacking, as our guide used a machete to clear the path of one of the lesser-used trails. It was so fun! We saw all sorts of cool critters, from the bird-eating tarantula to poison dart frogs and stick bugs. We even noticed a fancy yellow flower growing from a vine that made our guide particularly excited. The hike looped around to a giant, old-growth tree in the midst of being squeezed by a strangler fig. It was so massive and made us all feel wonderfully small. As we made our way back, we witnessed what was perhaps the highlight of the hike, a young anaconda, its belly bulging with a freshly consumed meal. It lay in the shallow waters of a creek slowly digesting its meal and posing for lots of photos.

As we made our way out, we couldn’t help purchasing some of the beautiful woodwork of local artisans. The markets help support local communities and give them additional means by which to earn money and protect the forest.

Our last outing of the trip was a visit to the community of Ritamaka Amazonas. As they like to say, “Ureakatepe!” or welcome! This thriving community along the Amazon has strong ties to forest protection and the empowerment of women and children. The community works with a Lindblad-supported organization known as Minga. Minga brings access to education, leadership training, and radio-based communication programs to the community.

Ritamaka broadcasts lessons on math and language to other communities and participates in sustainable agroforestry and fish farming programs that help provide food year-round and create holistic practices that prevent the overuse of forest resources. Perhaps most special was seeing the pride and joy in the faces and words of the women in the community who have found a new place of confidence and leadership that they say they didn’t have before.

Our adventurers learned how to create sugar water (well, Barb and Cindy are the ones who really put in the sweat equity on that one) and enjoyed the local cuisine, including piranha and doncella catfish wrapped in banana leaves. I think we could’ve eaten this every day. It was so delicious. We learned about the basket weaving techniques used by the village. They strip and dry palm fronds, then dye them using all manner of seeds, including henna (black or navy blue), turmeric (yellow), achiote (orange dye that is also used as a natural makeup), and puca ponga (perhaps my new favorite word). In case you’re curious, puca ponga makes the color red.

Throughout the visit, children kept bringing us fruits to eat. One fruit in particular looks like a tiny plum but is super sour, and I think the children enjoyed watching our faces as we ate the tart morsels. A futbol match was in session on the school court, and teams kicked around the soccer ball a Lindblad guest brought the previous week. The town felt like such a happy place. It was easy to want to stay for longer.

After visiting the market,(because we cannot leave without taking home some of those amazing weavings!), we headed back to the ship, where it was time, alas, to make ready for our final festivities as this wonderful adventure came to a close.